Iodine's Role in Body & its Food Sources

Iodine is a trace element which is found in oceans, the soil and even inside human body. It is required in human body in minute amounts to promote good health. One key purpose of the iodine in body is to convert the food consumed into energy for daily functions. Iodine is also vital for normal thyroid function and without iodine the body will not be able to produce the right amount of thyroid hormones.
Deficiency of iodine is a major health concern seen all over the world as iodine content in the soil varies with region. Major resource of the earth's iodine is oceans. Deficiency is surmounted by consuming iodine-rich foods or supplementing with iodized salt.

Significance of Iodine 

Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the iodine in the human body is within the thyroid gland located in the neck and the remaining is distributed throughout the body. If a person has low levels of iodine in body then it may lead to condition of low thyroid hormone levels or sluggish thyroid activity or hypothyroidism. This could cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, lethargy, skin dryness and temperature sensitivity. But its deficiency in infants and children may lead to more grave health issues such as stunted mental and physical development. If a pregnant woman has iodine deficiency, then the baby is at higher risk of stern psychological impairment, speech and hearing defects, dying early and being stillborn. Studies estimate that at least five percent of the population suffers from hypothyroidism.

Further, without sufficient protection from iodine, a person is more vulnerable to radiation damage. A lack of iodine in body can make it difficult to perform proper detoxification the body; lead to thyroid dysfunction and promote cancer cell growth. In the 1920s, goiter or enlarged thyroid gland, which is the gland's response to inadequate iodine in the blood, was a widespread health problem until iodine was added to salt. However nowadays several people have limited the consumption of iodized salt and added chlorine, fluoride and bromide to their diets.

The problem that has arisen is chlorine, fluoride and bromide lower natural iodine levels within the body by blocking iodine receptors. However, all these three elements are extremely deadly for the thyroid and unsafe for the rest of the body. Bromide can cause depression, headaches, hallucinations or even schizophrenia. And there are no long-term studies that demonstrate useful effects of fluoride on human health. Some Sodas and Bakery products such as bread and pastries may contain bromides generally used by most commercial bakeries. Bromine lower iodine levels in the thyroid gland.

Observational studies propose that there is a solid association between thyroid dysfunction and breast cancer. Presently in America, one in seven women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. However, thirty years ago when iodine consumption was much high than today, one in 20 women used to develop breast cancer. Women in Japan, who consume high levels of dietary iodine, have much lesser rates of breast cancer and thyroid problems.

These are some of the reasons essential to preserve optimal iodine levels in body by supplementing or consuming foods rich in iodine.

Functions of Iodine

The major role of iodine is as a component of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine, or T3, and thyroxine, or T4, the hormones that are produced in the thyroid gland. In the body T4 is transformed to the metabolically active form T3 which controls gene expression and consequently regulates metabolism, growth and reproductive function. Iodine is also vital for fetal and infant development, particularly cognitive development.

Recommended Intake of Iodine

Just as inadequacy of iodine can lead to impairment of proper thyroid function, same can be encountered with excess iodine. According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily consumption of iodine is 150 micrograms in adolescent and adult males and females. Expecting and breast-feeding mothers should take 220 and 290 micrograms each day, respectively. Infants up to age 6 months should consume 110 micrograms daily, while babies between ages 7 to 12 months should have 130 micrograms each day. Children between ages 1 to 8 should have an intake of 90 micrograms daily, while those between ages 9 to 13 should have an intake of 120 micrograms daily.

Foods Rich in Iodine 

Seafood is the chief source of iodine in the diet, mainly fish including cod and shrimp, and edible seaweed. Since iodine is normally added to livestock feed, so dairy is also a source of iodine. Terrestrial plants for instance beans and potatoes can be sources of iodine depending on the iodine content of the soil in which they are nurtured.

Shell fish contain high quantity of iodine. However, due to increase in ocean pollution, shellfish sources should be examined carefully before purchasing and consuming. Farmed shrimp are also often toxic.
Seaweed such as Kelp is another food that contains high amounts of iodine. Kelp is also in form of supplement tablets. Brown seaweed is another source.
Organic, virgin cold pressed coconut oil contains iodine combined with other nutrients to enhance thyroid action. It can be used in cooking, baking, in smoothies or merely taken as a supplement.
Himalayan Crystal Salt is a brilliant source of naturally existing iodine. One gram of Himalayan salt contains about 500 micrograms of iodine. One should be cautious when buying from health food stores that sell products labeled sea salt as they may be impelling some toxic, processed salt.
Other useful foods are organic butter, particularly ghee, egg yolks and cod liver oil.
All fermented foods have both thyroid and probiotic benefits, so they are beneficial for health. Avoid non-fermented soy products as they can be unsafe to thyroid health.

Whether supplementing or consuming foods rich in iodine, it is vital to solve an iodine deficiency in the body.

To know more about Thyroid related Disease, please click here.